I think it’s safe to say that I’m a slight sensory bottle addict. Since we’ve made so many around here, I wanted to share my best tips and tricks about how to make a perfect sensory bottle or discovery bottle. A perfect sensory bottle is what you want it to be, but sometimes that takes lots of trial and error. We’ve had lids break, mold grow, magnets turn to rust, complete flops, and so many more unexpected results. They’ve always been an adventure though, and my approach has become much more scientific throughout the years.
Hopefully this will help guide you to choose the perfect materials and ingredients to make the sensory bottle you really want! They are wonderful tools to use at home or in the car, and in the classroom they are a great addition to your preschool curriculum.
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How to choose the perfect bottle!
The bottle is like your lens. It’s shape and clarity are important as well as the size and sturdiness.
Through time I’ve learned that smaller bottles are best for heavy sensory bottles and a bottle that works well for big kids isn’t always what is best for babies and toddlers.
Here are my favorite kinds (and of course there are others):
VOSS water bottles are beautiful and sleek! The silver lid just gives it the perfect finishing touch. My rainbow discovery bottle is made from a VOSS water bottle. Oh and the water is super yummy too!
- Nice smooth edge
- Flat bottom
- Big opening for objects
- 3 sizes to choose from
- Lids can break when dropped
- Not widely available
- Not as sturdy as other bottles
I have found VOSS bottles at these locations: Kroger or King Soopers, Wal-Mart (online and in store), Whole Foods, TJ Maxx, a few convenience stores, boxed.com, Target, and of course online at Amazon.
They come either as glass or plastic. I’ve always bought plastic because once I add a liquid ingredient, a bottle starts to get heavy. The plastic bottles are going to be lighter for children to pick up. Glass works well for some people though.
This Voss Water, 11.2 oz. is the smalles size and perfect for all ages. I highly recommended it for any sensory bottles that use liquid.
Sparkling ICE Bottle
- Can be found at many grocery stores
- Sleek edges
- Narrow Opening
- The bottom is not flat
- Only one size
Craft bottles come in many shapes and sizes and are a fun option for a sensory bottle.
- Perfect for young children
- Easy to hold shape
- Flat base
- Several Shapes
- Different sizes
- Narrow opening
- Tricky to find
Craft bottles can be found at craft stores. I’ve seen them near the colored sand, and they are about $1 per bottle. If you are looking for them online, look for sand art bottles.
An Aquaball water bottle is a perfect alternative to a craft bottle if you are having trouble finding one. It can be easily spotted with it’s blue lid, and it is ball-shaped.
- Perfect for young children
- Easy to hold shape
- Flat base
- Available in many grocery stores
- Narrow opening
- One size
I found my Aquaball at my local grocery store.
Recycled containers also make wonderful sensory bottles! Sugar Aunts has many wonderful recycled sensory bottles. Here is her math dominoes one.
These are some sensory bottles made by my friend Cathy, and she used plastic spice containers that we found at the thrift store.
- Recycled containers are very affordable, if not free
- Most recycled containers have a wide opening for objects to go through.
- You are adding new life to something old.
- Each container is different, so it’s hard to say.
Some containers that are perfect for this are ones that once contained food. Peanut butter jars or similar work really well.
Making the Bottle
Use a clean bottle when making your discovery bottle…otherwise, you may acquire some unwanted growth later on. I pour the water into a different cup, then rinse it out if it is a flavored water.
To color your bottle, I highly recommend liquid watercolor. You could use food coloring as well.
I love using liquid ingredients! These are all of the ones that I have used and what they are perfect for. Keep in mind that anything metallic or magnetic will rust if you don’t put it in the proper liquid.
Water – Almost anything! Just don’t add magnets or anything metallic to this one or else it will rust.
Colored Water – Just add some liquid watercolor or food coloring.
Mineral Oil – This will slightly slow down whatever you have in your bottle. Items such as glitter will slow down a bit more. Mineral oil is also my “go to” solution for magnets and metallic items. Here’s my magnetic discovery bottle in mineral oil.
Baby Oil – This is mostly scented mineral oil. It is available at the dollar store usually. I want to try the oil gel soon!
Cooking Oil – I love combining this with colored water!
Liquid Soap – A nice slowing component. I use SoftSoap. Here is a calm down jar with liquid soap.
Shampoo – This also slows the flow of objects.
Corn Syrup – Corn syrup will slow objects down quite a bit. Make sure your objects are super clean! My alphabet discovery bottle is made of corn syrup.
Elmer’s Clear Glue – This is a great calm down jar ingredient and also great for slow-falling objects
Elmer’s Glitter Glue– A little goes a long way! I advise that you only use this if you are very experienced with making sensory bottles because it can be a tricky glue to work with. Here’s a calm down jar with glitter glue.
Glitter Glue – Mix this with hot water for a beautiful bottle. I use the kind from the Dollar Store.
Water Beads and Water — One of my absolute favorite sensory bottles is made of water beads! These Rainbow Discovery Bottles from Play to Learn Preschool are AMAZING. If you only make one set this year, make these!
Tonic Water – Make something glow in the dark! Here’s one from Fun at Home with Kids, and she tells you the exact one to make it look clear in light.
Dish Soap – Use a squirt of this if you have glitter that won’t sink.
Magnets – See my Magnetic Discovery Bottles.
Fine Glitter – I use this for all my Calm Down Jars.
Acrylics – See the acrylics in my Fall Discovery Bottle
Alphabet Beads – There are so many types to choose from! Here’s my Rainbow Alphabet Discovery Bottle.
Googly Eyes — Here are some in hair gel!
Loom Bands — Teach Preschool did an awesome job with her Loom Band Discovery Bottle
Nature — I love these ideas from Lemon Lime Adventures.
Mini Erasers – The dollar spot at Target is a gold mine for these.
Legos – You may have seen this awesome Lego Calm Down Jar.
Pony Beads – Fun at Home with Kids has an amazing pony bead discovery bottle.
Pipe Cleaners or Chenille stems – These are magnetic so you can put a magnet on the side of the bottle to attract them.
Beads – Nearly any bead looks great! Check out this idea from Stay at Home Educator.
Marbles — This Inside Out Emotions Discovery bottle from Lalymom uses marbles in a brilliant way!
Shredded paper – Here is ours that we made into a candy corn pattern.
Scented items – I love scented sensory bottles. Check out these ones from Things to Share and Remember.
Split Peas — Here’s a great example from Sugar Aunts.
Glue it Together
Once you’ve combined all of the ingredients together to make a perfect sensory bottle, it’s time to use the glue! I use a glue gun or Gorilla Super Glue. Keep in mind that you will need to glue your bottle every few months as the glue will wear off.
Sensory bottles can last years, so I never feel bad about indulging with them! I’d love to hear what your favorite sensory or discovery bottle is!
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